Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard

HMS Barham

H.M.S. Barham - 1941

Ron Jerrard joined the RMB in 1927. This page is dedicated to Ronald Charles John Jerrard, Royal Marine Bandsman (RMB/X46) and the Crew who were lost with the sinking of H.M.S. Barham (Battleship) by U-331 (German Submarine) 25th November 1941. "Age 29, He has no grave but the sea".

Dim with the mist of years - Grey flits the shade of power.

Ron is commemorated on panel 59, column 3 of the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial. (Southsea Common) I have just found out that Ron's best mate aboard Barham died with him that day, HE was William R (Lofty) ARSCOTT RMB/X572; Joined HMS Barham from the Royal Marine School of Music on 3rd May 1938 (the same day as Ron), Subsequently lost his life serving aboard the Barham when the ship was torpedoed on the 25th November 1941. His photo can be seen on the Survivors Website, BELOW is A photo of the Band, Ron is front row looking left to right he is 8th with a violin (He was also a claranet player and piano), photo supplied by Don Sims who is back row 3rd from the left, Smuts (Smith) who sent the copy is back row 3rd in from the left (French Horn). Don Sims and Smuts are the only two survivors of the Band.

H.M.S. BARHAM Lost 25th November 1941

On 24th November 1941, Queen Elizabeth, BARHAM and Valiant, with an escort of eight destroyers, sailed from Alexandria to cover operations against two enemy convoys reported to be making for Benghazi. On the following day, at l6.25 hours, Barham was torpedoed by the German submarine U-331, which, undetected, had penetrated the destroyer screen. The submarine fired four torpedoes, three of which detonated on Barham's port side, between the funnel and 'Y' turret. She quickly listed to port and, after a pause of a few seconds, at an angle of 40 degrees, turned onto her beam ends.

Four minutes after the torpedoes had struck, the after 15­inch magazines exploded and vented through the upper­deck and the starboard side.

The ship was hidden by an enormous cloud of smoke, and when this cleared, she had gone. Barham's Captain, G. C. Cooke, and 86l officers and men were lost with the ship. Vice­Admiral Pridham­Wippell and 395 members of the crew were rescued.

The exact cause of the explosion of the ship's magazines could not be established because of the rapidity with which she had sunk. The Court of Inquiry put forward the theory that a fire might have started in the after port 4­inch magazine, and subsequently, spread to the main magazines. After the torpedoes had struck, the internal lighting and communication systems failed, and no general orders were received because the broadcasting system failed. Barham was operating the correct degree of watertight sub­division for cruising, but she listed too quickly for any effective counter­measures to be carried out.

THE BARHAM DISASTER, Eye Witness Account.

From The Hampshire Genealogy Society Journal

When Michael HOBBS of Southampton read an article in the May 1987 issue of the Hampshire Genealogy Society Journal about the sinking of HMS Barham, he dug out his late father's diary which contained the following eye-witness account:

Tuesday November 25th 1941

The Sinking of HMS BARHAM as seen from HMS VALIANT

By RA Hobbs P/LX 24748

The day was rather cloudy but sunny and the water was calm, typical of the Mediterranean even in November. The RN Eastern Mediterranean Fleet, comprising of three battleships, the QE, Barham and Valiant with a screen of destroyers, under the flag of Admiral Cunningham, were proceeding westward in the hope of finding and destroying any enemy attempts to convey men and materials to Libya for the present campaign.

Up to now the Navy has been very successful without loss or damage. During the day we had had several enemy aircraft following us and approaching at a safe distance, with AA crews continually at their posts and supply parties continuously running to their stations and using the traditional language that only the Navy can get away with at times like this. For all that the forenoon and the afternoon watch went by without anything happening and we were all looking forward to our return to Alexandria the next morning.

It was at about 4.40, (1640 hrs) when all of a sudden the battleships suddenly swerved into a single line abreast position, and as the evolution was beginning there was three sharp reports, thinking a submarine had been located and Depth Charges were being dropped, all of a sudden a rating rushing through the alleyway shouted "The Barham's been hit". We all rushed up on deck expecting to find her unable to make any headway and a slight list, but the three explosions were too much at short range and too strong for any water-tight doors. After rolling to Starboard, she turned over to Port with a list of about 15 degrees and greatly increasing. The sub after firing, shot to the surface and the Valiant was only just unable to ram it owing to the turning evolution, but was immediately engaged and decisively hit by S1 Pom Pom. She immediately crash-dived and no one saw her again, by the way she dived she was making straight for the Barham. In the meantime the Barham was listing heavily and now at an angle of about 30 degrees. Evidently Abandon ship had been given because ratings were sliding down the ship's side which by now were almost flush with the water. A remarkable sight was to see the Officers on the Bridge hanging on as if on a parallel bars. Aboard her there was no sign of panic and everything was quite orderly. It was a vivid and horrible sight seeing men jumping, diving and getting rid of what clothes they could before going into the water. By now she was almost at an angle of 90 degrees, and she was falling fast. As soon as the funnel touched the water there was an explosion most terrific and horrific as ever could be seen. Debris and everything was flung hundreds of feet into the air in a column of thick black smoke. One of the 15" turrets was see to be flung at least 100' into the air. It was a horrible sight seeing human life being flung and blown to hell in a few seconds. Destroyers raced in against the smoke, survivors seemed to be very few, in a few minutes the smoke was cleared and not a sign of the ship remained, where had been the HMS Barham.

May God bless all those who went down with her to her glorious end. The destroyers, all bar four, searched around for survivors, but the remainder of the fleet sailed placidly on as if nothing had happened, a remarkable thing in the Royal Navy. Still steering Westward, almost incidentally afterwards we had a repel aircraft warning and then typical of the Axis powers they tried to get the Destroyers who were saving life. The attack lasted almost an hour, but no damage or casualty were reported. During the evening and night various reports came through regarding their number of survivors and at the time of pipedown, just over 280 had been reported saved.

The night was uneventful, although on board we all seemed in a daze with the reaction of such a horrible sight. Just before arriving at Alexandria we were all glad to hear that 300 had been picked up including 15 Officers and the Admiral. So ends another of Britain's glorious ships. To think a ship could sink in 8 minutes like that has to be seen to be believed. Another epic in Naval history is closed, but all credit must be given to the U Boat CO for his daring courageous duty, it was a gallant act Nazi or no Nazi. Revenge is certain with the Royal Navy, we have 2 scores to settle now the "Ark Royal " and "Barham" and they will be arranged and without loss (but I never want to see another sight like that again).


In his book "Battleship Barham" Geoffrey Jones states that the survivors from Barham were rescued only by the destroyers Hotspur and Nizam, who took 186 and 168 respectively; yet the Admiralty state there were 396 survivors. Including in those killed were Ronald Charles John Jerrard RM Band and Ord. Seaman Tom Jerrard. Ronald was my father's brother; if you have any details of Tom Jerrard please let me know.

The Escorts

There were an escort of 8 destroyers - I believe the escorts were , Decoy,(Daring Class?), Hasty, Hotspur, (Hotspur Class) Jackal, Jervis, Nizam, (Javelin Class) Griffin ("G" Class) and, possibly Kipling?, also a Javelin class; Griffin Jervis and Napier were certainly the nearest - if you can confirm the others please tell me.

Hotspur picked up survivors.

·         See HMS Janus page

In April 1942 "The Fleet" published a list of those lost with Barham. I have a copy plus a list of the Royal Marine losses - a total of 134 Royal Marines were lost, only 34 survived. Many., including bandsmen would have been in the Magazines at the time, they would have had little chance of escape.

HMS Barham was sunk by U 331 under the command of Baron Hans Dietrich Von Tiesenhausen, his Boat was later sunk on 17 November 1942 at 37-05N, 02-24E, (in the Med).

Happier times, Fleet Review

Happier times, Christmas Card, Possibly Christmas 1940

I would welcome any Photographs of her taken by Crew members at any stage of her career.

Do you have a story to tell about the Barham, or any of that Class of ship. Please write and tell me. Your Story can be told here.

·         Portsmouth War Memorial, details of Ron Jerrard

BUY A Midshipman's War (contains a chapter on the sinking of Barhan as seen from HMS Queen Elizabeth. Excellent photos.

Three older books you may be able to get hold of

·         The Man who sunk the Barham

My father remembers that Ron's first ship was HMS Vindictive, a (Vindictive) (Hawkins Class Cruiser that was converted to an Aircraft Carrier and then back to a cruiser before a Training Ship. He joined as a band boy on 30th June 1926. He joined Vindictive Dec 1929 and was in Hawkins 1st Jan 1930 until 29th April 1931. He joined Dorsetshire 13th July 1931. He joined Devonshire 14th Oct 1931 and served in her until 24th Jan 1934. From 3rd Oct 1934 until Sept 1937 he was in HMS Ganges. He joined Barham 31 Dec 1938.

Other ships in which Ron served, H.M.S VINDICTIVE, 1929

·         HMS Vindictive

Other ships in which Ron served, H.M.S DEVONSHIRE, First Cruiser Squadron 1931 - 1932.

Built by Devonport Dockyard. Laid Down 16 March 1926. Launched 22 October 1927. Completed 18 March 1929. Training ship 1947-1953. Broken up by Cashmore, Newport, 1954. She was the oldest ship present at the 1953 Fleet Review.


·         HMS Devonshire

HMS HAWKINS - Light Cruiser.

·         HMS Hawkins

Below is a link to recent Guardian obituary of Cameraman who filmed the sinking of HMS Barham in the second world war. There is a link on the page to the bit of film.
·         HMS Barham Sinking